Round 26 of the NRL season is full of possibilities with only four teams guaranteed to be in the finals.
Round 26 of the NRL season is shaping as one of the most dramatic in years with the full make-up of the top eight to remain unresolved until late on Sunday evening.
Only Manly (36 points), South Sydney (34), Sydney Roosters (34) and Penrith (32) have rubber-stamped their place in the finals.
Six other teams are playing to keep alive their season with only two points separating fifth and 10th spot.
The destination of the minor premiership depends on the outcome of the Sea Eagles’ clash with North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday.
Second-placed Souths and third-ranked Roosters kick-off the round at Allianz Stadium on Thursday in what’s shaping up as a thrilling encounter between the bitter rivals.
Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis said neither team will too focused on finishing top of the ladder but maintaining momentum will be crucial.
“It’s the oldest tradition in history, two great clubs two great rivalries, there’s no better way to finish off the season,” Inglis said.
“Momentum is a big thing going into finals footy and we have to build on that.”
The Cowboys, who’ve been the victim of refereeing howlers in the last two years in Sydney finals, host Manly knowing victory may secure a top-four finish should the Warriors beat Penrith on Sunday night.
A Manly loss would hand the minor premiership to Souths or the Roosters but a win for Geoff Toovey’s side would see the JJ Giltinan Shield return to Brookvale Oval for the first time since 1987 along with a cheque for $100,000.
An intriguing clash between perennial powerhouses Melbourne and Brisbane takes place on Friday with the Storm facing potential elimination with a loss or the outside chance of being in the top four with a win.
The Storm were bitterly disappointed to lose 24-12 to the Roosters last Saturday and have the added pressure of facing an in-form Broncos side who’ve burst into life in the latter stages of the season.
Anthony Griffin’s team will make the eight with a win and could still qualify with a loss if other results go their way.
For this to happen, ninth place Warriors would need to lose and not better the Broncos’ for-and-against, which is currently seven points superior.
They would also need 10th-placed Parramatta to lose to former coach Ricky Stuart when they face Canberra in the nation’s capital on Saturday evening.
The Eels are the outsiders to make the eight after a heavy loss to Newcastle on Saturday blew their already woeful for and against to minus 90, but they’ll be there with a win and other results going their way.
Canterbury will want a win over the faltering Gold Coast on Sunday to also copper-bottom their finals spot.
However, their season could be over should the Warriors and Brisbane both enjoy victories.